Making time for a hobby: Altoona retiree repairs clocks for the challenge

If Glenn and Betty Campbell are running late, they can’t exactly get away with blaming it on a stopped clock.

The couple’s Altoona home is filled with about 20 working clocks, which Glenn refurbishes as a hobby.

In their home’s living room on Tuesday afternoon, Betty said with a laugh that you could call them “clock nuts.”

The dining room is the only room in the house with only one clock and the others have three or more.

At the entrance to their living room sits a grandfather clock that once belonged to the late Slinky company co-founder and former owner Betty James.

“Many of them chime and play music, and they all go off at the same time,” Betty said. “It’s just something that we both truly enjoy. And I’m happy that he has the hobby.

“He has many hobbies, but this is one of his specialties and he really enjoys refurbishing clocks. It’s just something he loves.

“And I support any hobby he does, especially now that he’s retired. I don’t want him to sit around and be bored, and he will never be bored. We have so many hobbies that boredom does not exist in our language. We’re both very busy.”

Glenn, 63, who retired as a letter carrier for the Altoona post office, and Betty, 61, a retired beauty shop owner, have two grown children, Eric of Mechanicsburg, and Karen Price of McDonald, and four grandchildren.

They are members of the Blair County Antique Auto Club, for which she is an officer.

The former engineer, who sometimes replaces expensive hard-to-find parts with digital mechanisms, got started repairing clocks when he was a kid, he said.

“Probably out of necessity,” he said of why he got started. “When I was a kid, we didn’t have a whole lot of money, and a lot of times, we’d be given clocks that came in from family members that needed repaired, and I would just repair them. I’ve always been fortunate that I can take something apart and usually figure it out and put it back together.

“It doesn’t always work out like that, but I try my best.”

Glenn enjoys the challenge, he said.

“I like the fact that it’s a challenge because there aren’t too many people who can do it. I love it when someone hands me something and says, ‘We took it to a professional, and he couldn’t get it running and it can’t be fixed,’ and then sometimes I can, and then I feel good about that,” he said. “I just love a challenge. When someone says, ‘This damn thing won’t work,’ I like to say, ‘Well, can I take it home with me?’ and then bring it to them and say, ‘Here you go!’ That makes my day.”

He enjoys working on cars the most, he said.

Glenn also likes working on computers and once worked for Westinghouse. He was an engineer for seven years, but left in order to be home more with his family. He became a mail carrier after working for his stepfather’s roofing company for 10 years. He retired from the Postal Service after 25 years.

“He has a very mechanical mind that he can look at something, you know, we would just say, ‘Oh that’s broken,’ and he can look at it and say, ‘Hmm, I can fix that.’ And he’s extremely mechanical. He likes to challenge his brain, I think,” Betty said.

Glenn estimates he’s fixed about 100 clocks over the years. He’s fixed more since retiring more than a year ago, Betty added.

He recently worked on a clock for Sue Barnard of Altoona.

Her mother’s grandfather clock was in the family about 40 years, and movers dismantled it on a recent move, she said.

She said the parts that were needed to fix it were expensive, and Glenn put in a digital mechanism. It works the same except the pendulum no longer moves, she said.

“He is wonderful. He is very, very meticulous, extremely careful, and he had remarked that I had such a wonderful clock, and he got it all going,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030. Follow Amanda Gabeletto on Twitter (@AmandaGabeletto) or on Facebook (Amanda Gabeletto Altoona Mirror).